Facts not Fiction

I sat there staring at the memo he handed me. Something about it, about him, didn’t seem right. His eyes were glancing out the window, avoiding me. “Brett, let me review this memo and her file. It’s getting late. We can talk tomorrow.”  He agreed and left. 

I immediately went to the file room to retrieve her file. This was before things were digital—we dealt with paper and hard copies. Strange, I thought. A copy of the memo, allegedly written two months earlier, wasn’t in her file. I looked at the basket of papers next to the file cabinet.  In it were papers waiting to be filed. It wasn’t that full—I looked through it—no memo.

I stuck my head out the door and summoned Cary, my assistant. “Are there any other papers, anywhere in the department, to be filed?”  He shook his head. “No ma’am. That’s it,” he said gesturing to the basket in my hand. 

“Okay, then.  And by the way,” I said setting the basket down and picking up the file, “I’ll have Trina Black’s file locked in my office overnight. 

When I met with Brett next morning I explained I had thoroughly searched but had not located a copy of the memo in the employee file. I was bracing for his reaction and not expecting the response I received. He sheepishly glanced down and said, “I know.”

“So if I understand correctly, Brett, this memo—a final warning—was written recently, even though it’s dated two months ago, and Trina never received it.”  He nodded yes. “You realize,” I continued, “we can’t act on this false document and terminate her at this time.”  Once again, he nodded yes. 

When I confronted Brett about the missing memo that morning I was expecting a conflict would result.  I imagined him arguing that we’d lost the memo, and that Trina was incompetent and had to be fired. Instead, confronted with facts—facts he couldn’t refute—he had no option but to agree with me. The lack of the memo being sent contemporaneously to the employee’s file implied that Brett had not followed protocol nor warned Trina, not giving her an opportunity to change. He ultimately admitted that to me.  

Workplace issues—differing opinions, poor employee behavior or performance—can quickly lead to conflict.  When you get to the underlying facts, conflicts or problems can be avoided or solved. Fact-finding is critical to problem solving and conflict.  We devoted a chapter to it, “What’s the Problem?” in The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. 

April is Workplace Conflict Awareness Month—a good time to refresh and share your conflict management skills. And what better way to do that than to share copies of The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook with your team.  You can find it on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y8qy4msz. After you’ve read it, could you consider putting an honest review on Amazon?  We’d be grateful and honored.  We also would love to help you spread the word on your podcasts or be interviewed for your blog. 

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